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Japan's construction industry needs more foreign workers

07/11/2018
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Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has led his cabinet to approve a new law aimed at bringing in more workers from outside the country to drive various sectors, including the construction and fabrication industry. 

Japan's construction industry needs more workers from other countries

The draft legislation was approved on Friday, and will loosen immigration rules by creating two new categories of visas for those who wish to work in Japan. 

The visas are only open to workers in certain industries and are separated by skillset. The first category allows workers with certain skills and a level of language proficiency to stay, with their families, in Japan for up to five years. Higher skilled workers in technical roles can apply for the second type of visa, which will eventually allow them to apply for residency.

This represents a major shift for Japan, which currently has extremely restrictive immigration laws. Foreign workers currently only make up 2% of the workforce. However many businesses have been lobbying for these restrictions to be loosened for some time, with severe labor shortages affecting the construction and fabrication industry, as well as healthcare and agriculture. 

Recent surveys also suggest that the majority of Japanese voters’ views on immigration have changed over time, with over 51% now favouring letting in more foreign workers. 

Shinzo Abe still stresses that the plan is not to completely overhaul the country’s immigration policy, but is merely targeted to benefit the industries where workers are most needed. He stated that the law will only accept those “who have specific skills and can work immediately to address serious labor shortages, only in sectors that genuinely need them.”

It’s thought that within these industries there are currently 165 job vacancies for every 100 Japanese job seekers. No cap was suggested in the draft legislation, but Japanese media estimate that this law could allow up to 500,000 workers in to the country.

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Japan's construction industry needs more foreign workers - Time to read 2 min
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